Over the past ten days I have watched—from a distance—intelligent, educated, enlightened people struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing situation. Working from home, not working at all, kids home from school, e-learning, Lady McBeth-like handwashing, the list is long. We have been bombarded with information. Even a generation that has thrived in the ‘Age of Information’ seems to be drowning in the overabundance of information.
Perhaps erroneously, I include pastors in the category of intelligent, educated, enlightened people. We are creatures of habit and rhythm. Some are adaptive junkies jumping from solution to solution without really identifying the problem. Some love the balance and structure the life of leading a congregation brings. Most of us are a bit of both. We love that our priorities evolve with each day AND we require the rhythm and reliability of congregational life.
As you are experiencing a gigantic learning curve, so are we. No choir to preach to? Livestreatm! No Bible study to lead? Email! No visits? Call everybody! Like you and your life, pastors are learning on the fly. We are implementing without planning. We are grabbing technology and employing it without two years of committee discussion. In some cases, pastors are trying things without REALLY knowing what they’re doing. Some may wonder if pastors EVER know what they are doing, but the pastors I know and love and cherish REALLY know what they are doing.
At least, we used to.
This paradigm shift has rocked pastors (and their churches) because we were so proficient at the old way. We were so good at running the church of the 19th and early 20th Century. Collectively, I’m not sure if we’ve been too great at running 21st Century congregations—I’m not even sure if I know what a 21st Century congregation IS, let alone know how to lead one.
This is not just about pastors, though. This is about the Church, the divinely inspired Body manifesting Christ-like love and compassion so that EVERYONE is embraced by it.
I learned this week that it takes somewhere between 21 and 256 days to instill a new habit into one’s behavior—to take an everyday task and incorporate it to the point that it becomes routine.
[Here comes the heresy.] The isolating, sheltering, minimalizing of the coronavirus era is a good thing for the church. The quarantine has forced us to learn new skills, new practices, new forms of being in a world from which we were increasingly disconnected.
Let’s not go back.
Let’s not retreat to 1983. It will only take between two weeks and six months for this newness to become more comfortable and more routine. We can continue to grow, to learn, to adapt and in doing so, become relevant again. For the first time in 10-20-50 years, the church that I am acquainted with has rediscovered that we have a message of hope and resilient faith to broadcast to the world. It would be shame to lose that [again].